A Place for Mom

Best Cities to Retire If You Love Shopping

Ben Hanowell
By Ben HanowellDecember 19, 2016
man with shopping bags

With help from Walk Score — a Redfin company that helps people find a new home in a livable neighborhood — we rank cities by how close their senior living communities are to retail shopping.

We give you the skinny on cities where independent senior living won’t break the bank for you or your shopaholic loved one. If you need some assistance with activities of daily living, we’ve got the best shopping cities for assisted living, too. Along the way, we’ll talk about why some types of senior living community tend to be closer to shopping.


How Walk Score Measures Shopaholic-Friendliness

Using a patented system, Walk Score measures hundreds of walking routes from any address to nearby locations. Then it awards points to the route based on the distance to locations in a range of categories. One of those categories is retail shopping. The component of an address’s Walk Score that measures proximity to retail shopping is called the Shopping Score. It’s a number between 0 and 100. The higher the score, the better the shopping. In the spirit of Walk Score, we define some shopaholic-friendliness categories based on the score.

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Shopping ScoreDescription90—100Shopper’s Paradise
Shopping does not require a car.70—89Very Shop-able
Most shopping can be accomplished on foot.50—69Somewhat Shop-able
Some shopping can be accomplished on foot.25—49Car-Dependent
Most shopping requires a car.0—24Car-Dependent
Almost all shopping requires a car.


So that’s how Walk Score does it. But why should you care about whether you can walk to shops from your senior living community?

Why You Should Care About the Walkability of Senior Living Communities

Sure you or your loved one may still have a car when you move to your new independent living digs. Sure there may be off-site transportation options at the senior living community where you move. Yet the Arthritis Foundation rightly stresses at least 12 benefits of walking for older adults.

The benefits of walkable neighborhoods go beyond physical health. At least one study reports higher levels of social engagement among older adults who live in more walkable neighborhoods. Plus let’s face it: if you can walk to your next shopping rounds, you can enjoy a nice cocktail while you’re on the go.

City Rankings for Shopaholics

Walk Score shared walkability data with A Place for Mom on the addresses of over 8,700 of our senior living community partners offering independent living, assisted living, residential care homes, or senior apartments. By the way, if you don’t know what any of those terms mean, listen up.

  • Senior apartments are apartments catering to 55+ active adults
  • Independent living is for those looking for a retirement community that offers individual apartments, dining services, light housekeeping, and limited in-home assistance
  • Assisted living is like independent living, but also offers 24 hour access to assistance with personal care.
  • Residential care homes are like assisted living communities but much smaller and tend to be located in residential neighborhoods, often in converted large single-family homes

The interactive tables below rank cities by the average Shopping Score of communities offering a particular type of senior housing and care.

Shopaholic Rankings

  • Use the City filter to search for a destination that interests you
  • Use the Number Properties filter to find cities with more properties for comparison
  • Tap the Shopping Score column header to re-sort the table

[tab_item title=”SENIOR APARTMENTS”]

[tab_item title=”INDEPENDENT LIVING”]

[tab_item title=”ASSISTED LIVING”]

[tab_item title=”RESIDENTIAL CARE HOMES”]


City Rankings for Budget-Conscious Shopaholics

We combined Walk Score data on our partner properties with our Senior Living Cost Index to rank cities for budget-conscious shopaholics. Unfortunately, the Cost Index doesn’t cover senior apartments or residential care homes (but stay tuned for that to change when we update the Index next year).

The interactive tables below rank cities by the median senior housing cost for a particular type of senior housing and care given the city’s shop-ability rating.

Budget-Conscious Shopaholic Rankings

  • Use the City filters to search for a destination that interests you
  • Use the Number Properties filter to find cities with more properties for comparison
  • Tap the Median Monthly Cost (US$) column header to re-sort the table


Some of the cities on this list may surprise you (we’re looking at you, Fort Smith, AR). We spot-checked some of the more confusing but affordable entries and found they are indeed close to retail shopping! Note how these shoppers’ paradises have few qualifying options per city. Do you like shopping enough to cut down your senior housing options? If not, you might want to downgrade to “Very Shop-able,” our next category.

[tab_item title=”INDEPENDENT LIVING”]

[tab_item title=”ASSISTED LIVING”]



Surprising entries still abound in the list of the Very Shop-able. If you’re looking for quality as well as quantity in your shopping and want to broaden your list of available options, you should filter out cities with fewer options of a particular care type. But be careful: very shop-able cities with many options are less common and often pricier.

[tab_item title=”INDEPENDENT LIVING”]

[tab_item title=”ASSISTED LIVING”]



Not quite car-dependent, these cities have affordable senior living options somewhat close to a few retail shops.

[tab_item title=”INDEPENDENT LIVING”]

[tab_item title=”ASSISTED LIVING”]


Find A Shopaholic-Friendly City Near You

Not enough shopping to do in the city where you currently live? Trying to balance proximity to shopping against your senior housing budget in a city near you? We made an interactive map to help.

  • Select the type of senior living community that interests you
  • Zoom and pan the map to your destination
  • Circles represent cities where we measured Shopping Score and senior housing costs
  • The redder the circle, the better the Shopping Score
  • Tap on a circle to see its Shopping Score and (for independent and assisted living) senior housing costs

Why Some Types of Senior Living Tend to Be Closer to Shopping

The chart below shows average Shopping Scores for senior apartments, independent living, assisted living, and residential care homes.


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Shop-ability diminishes as you move up the care spectrum from senior apartments to assisted living. The score is lower still for residential care homes. Senior apartments are on average Somewhat Shop-able whereas all other care types are on average either mildly or extremely Car-Dependent.

One reason for these differences could be lower demand for walkable neighborhoods among assisted living consumers, who have limited mobility. Yet that doesn’t mean assisted living residents couldn’t also benefit from closer proximity to neighborhood amenities like retail shopping.

Senior apartments are in more shop-able neighborhoods on average in part because they are clustered in more densely populated, more urban regions of the country. Yet even within the same region, senior apartments are in more shop-able areas than other types of senior living community.

But why are residential care homes in less walkable areas on average than assisted living communities? Remember, residential care homes tend to be located in residential neighborhoods. Residential neighborhoods tend to be farther away from business districts.

Finally, remember you can often find shopaholic-friendly senior living communities of any type. In fact, 23% of the residential care homes and 39% of the assisted living communities we looked at have scores as good or better than the average for senior apartments.

Full Disclosure

Believe it or not, this author hates going shopping, but is fine if you love it. Did I fool you? Anyway, next time you’re out, could you do some of my Christmas shopping for me? Let me get my list…




The Takeaway

We showed you the city rankings for retirees who love to shop. We built a map so you can look for the most shopaholic-friendly city with the best senior living prices near you. For many families, searching for senior housing and care is a much more serious matter than looking for a new pair of shoes. Yet for those families fortunate enough to do so, we encourage you to treat it with as much gusto.

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Ben Hanowell
Ben Hanowell

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